John P. McConnell has three straightforward pieces of advice for those thinking about going into business for themselves:
Never give up on your dream.
Have confidence in yourself.
Seek the help and advice of others.
“Remember, you can't do all of it yourself,” he says. “You need support of friends and others. Look to people you have admired in your life to go to when things get tough. Always be open and engaging with them. Don't make it difficult for them to be helpful.”
The chairman and CEO of Worthington Industries Inc., McConnell strongly believes in those three principles — having used them as he began working in the company his father John H. McConnell founded. The company has become a leading diversified metal processing company with annual sales of $2.5 billion.
John P. McConnell started as a second shift general laborer in 1975 at the company’s Louisville, Ky., steel plant. This was after some previous summer jobs there.
“I cut grass and did various odd jobs and tarred roofs, that kind of stuff at the cylinder plant for the summer,” he says. “So I kind of grew up in the business.”
While not everyone has the opportunity to join a family business, stepping into that arena sometimes takes a little pondering.
“It is something you want to be thoughtful about,” McConnell says. “There is a point where it is like, ‘Maybe I shouldn't go into the business.’ So I gave it some thought. It ended up — I started with our cylinder company right after school. Then I worked a little bit of sales there. Next, I became personnel director and did that for seven or eight years. Then I eventually started managing our Columbus steel plant.”
Active in numerous community organizations, McConnell currently serves on the board of directors for OhioHealth as well as on the boards of the Greater Columbus
Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA, Children's Hospital and the Columbus Zoological Association.
He is majority owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets National Hockey League franchise and chairman of the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation.
As you can expect, McConnell is one of Columbus’ biggest boosters.
“I think the Columbus area is a fabulous area on many, many fronts,” he says. “It's obviously a great place for families. That's one of the things people say right away, but I think it is just a fabulous community, all the way around. And certainly from a workforce standpoint, there are a lot of very talented people to pull from here in the area.
“The Arena District made a huge change in the downtown. Everybody just keeps continuing to improve on the city. I just love Columbus the way it is; we should keep building on our strengths. It has a very diverse economy so it generally holds up pretty well relative to other areas of the country.”
McConnell is also concerned about the skilled labor shortage.
“I think across the country we still need an emphasis placed on skilled labor, because as machinists and tool and die makers — those people with those skills — age, there aren't that many coming in behind them. That is going to be a challenge for the country. It will be addressed. Shortages and voids always get filled, it seems.”
And entrepreneurs will continue to rise and flourish.
“I think there's always going to be an important role that entrepreneurs play,” McConnell says. “There will always be entrepreneurs. There are people who just see something and believe they can create something that others would want or that satisfies their needs. That kind of person is always going to be around and is always needed.”
How to reach: Worthington Industries Inc., (614) 438-3210, or www.worthingtonindustries.com